Plymouth 2003

England was in the middle of a heatwave as I drove down to Plymouth on the Friday. I'd left early, so traffic was fairly light and I was at Deep Blue by 2.30pm where I dropped off my tanks for a fill. Our accommodation was the New Inn in Turnchapel, which is only about a 15 minute walk away.

We decided to dive the Australbush on the Saturday. This was an armed 4398 ton merchant steamship, which was en-route from Le Havre to Barry when it was torpedoed in November 1917. Some websites claim it was British, but it seems to have been Australian.

Originally we were supposed to be on Deep Blue's Seeker, but there had been a change in skipper, so we were on the Pamela P, which normally operates out of Penzance. It does have a diver lift, but has less kitting up room than the Seeker. Fortunately this wasn't an issue as there were only 6 of us.

Fred, the skipper, wanted to run a lazy shot system on the wreck. The first pair made sure the shot was in, the second attached the lazy shot. I was diving in the last pair, and it would probably be our job to release the lazy shot. Descending down the line, Keith was having a few problems and didn't seem very comfortable. As we passed the point at which the lazy shot was clipped in, I attached my tally to the line, which was a bolt snap with my name on it. Reaching the bottom took a while and Keith decided he wasn't happy and decided to ascend on his DSMB. I waited until he'd bagged up successfully and decided to continue on my own. I knew that if I didn't go up the shotline and remove my tally, it would create problems for the rest of the group.

The viz was nothing special at around 4m and it was a bit colder on the 61m bottom at around 14°C. After our slow descent and waiting for Keith to send his blob up, I'd already used up 12 minutes, so there wasn't really much left of my 20 minutes bottom time. I had a bit of a swim around a large lump of wreckage. There were lots of small, bait fish around the wreck. They glittered in the gloom as I swung the beam of my HID torch over them. Other fish life included some pollack and there was quite a bit of growth on the wreck itself.

Soon my time was up and it was time to ascend up the line. I reached the point at which the lazy shot was attached to the main shotline. My tally was the only one on it, so I unclipped the lazy shot so that it could drift off in the current. I then started to ascend up the line. I caught up with a couple of the other guys at around 30m, and by the time we got to 9m, there was quite a group of us. There was a definite thermocline at about 10m and it was quite warm finishing off the deco. My total dive time was 64 minutes and maximum depth was 60.3m.

The next day there was a lot of debate about what to do. In the end, we decided to do the Charlwood, also known as the “Glass Wreck” which is quite near to Eddystone lighthouse. I don't know a lot about it other than it was sunk some time in the late 19th century. As we came out of Plymouth Sound, I spotted the unmistakable shape of a fin sticking through the surface of the water. It was a basking shark feeding on the plankton.

For some reason, it took a while to shot the wreck and there wasn't time to set up the lazy shot system, so we decided that we were going to bag off. Keith had decided to sit this one out, so I went in with Brod. Not really knowing what to expect, we descended down the line and found the wreck, an iron hulled ship sitting about 4-5m proud of the seabed. And it was full of glass. There were sheets and sheets of the stuff, as well as half pint tumblers, pint tumblers, stemmed wine glasses and wine bottles. A couple of the guys also found some decanters. Sadly I didn't and I wasn't that impressed with the tumblers. They looked like Victorian petrol station quality to me, so I left them down there.

Towards the stern, there was also something that looked like it had been a cargo of carpet, but it was hard to tell after all this time. My torch picked out the unmistakable blue skin of a conger. I swam closer to have a better look and he started to come out of his hole a bit. After he'd emerged about a metre, I decided that discretion might be the stronger part of valour and moved on.

I was diving the same 65m plan as the previous day, so after 20 minutes, it was time to start leaving the bottom. My maximum depth had been 62.4m and the viz had been much better, at around the 8m mark. The bottom temperature was 14°C again, but the water got a lot warmer and a lot dirtier at 10m. The last 3-4m were as warm as 19°C.

It had been a good dive and we headed back into Plymouth, spotting a sun fish splashing around on the surface on the way back in. It had been an enjoyable weekend, with some fantastic weather. All that remained was the 3.5 hour drive home.